Friday, April 18, 2014

Nowhere Man

Lazy Day
As I enter the fourth week of my involuntary vacation (I'm unemployed again, apparently) I find myself taking longer and longer rides on my bicycle. My goal is to live on my bike, a term we all are familiar with, I suppose, but at the same time, what does it mean?

This is the best time of year where I live here in Florida. The thermometer hovers around 75 degrees during the day, the nights are cool and the windows are open. Overnight, it seems, my world turned green, everywhere it is green and cool and the breezes are just right, blustery sometimes and variable, as they say, but just right all the same. Also, I don't know if they are migrating or just suddenly found themselves down and out and living in a trailer park, but all manner of birds have arrived, robins and cardinals and woodpeckers and bluejays and others; I can hear, as I sit here at my table, chirpings and singing and squawkings and they sound as though they are having a blast, those birds. At least I hope they are.

Destination Home
As for me, I have been riding not far, but long. Ever a master of time and space, I know how to do it, this drifting, this going nowhere and taking my time to get there. I have been doing probably thirty miles, maybe more, each day, setting out around ten a.m. when my Florida world is perfect: the sun just right, the cars settled into their routines and cadences; I pedal off with nowhere to go and nothing to do when I get there. What I am usually doing is poking around out on the far corners of town, looking at one acre pieces of ground that I have found listed for sale on the internet. Small pieces of uncut jungle, mostly, the kind of places homeless guys who truly live on their bicycles are known to seek out. Places that are not too far from supermarket sustenance or the conveniences (and bathrooms) of handy neighborhood parks and public libraries.

Are you going anywhere with this? You seem to be rambling.

“Silence, Voice! I know what I'm doing here, mostly.”

Well, a lot of people read this stuff at work and don't have much time and besides, aren't you supposed to be concise and sparkling and kill somebody by the end of the first chapter?

“What? Kill somebody?”

Yeah and then you spend about a hundred and fifty pages having the hero sort things out and you sprinkle in some red herrings and false plants and misdirection and there is lots of action. Plus you can use juxtaposition and non-linear timelines to keep the reader off-balance and...

“Voice! Stop! Calm down! What the hell are you talking about? You sound like you've been auditing writing classes out at some Junior College somewhere. Wait a that where you...”

Well, someone has to do it! I didn't have anything else to do while you were off in the outback building those stupid McGrease's. At least one of us is trying to better himself and find a way out of this damn trailer park.

“OK, buddy, take it easy. You just caught me by surprise there, for a minute. Look, this piece here ain't a murder mystery, it's just a rambling post about, uh, rambling. And, by the way, that stuff you were spouting is what results in formulaic fiction. You're better than that, partner.”

What we need is a formula for some dollars. I really like that property out on Cow Creek Road. The one with the little pond and the big oak out front.

“I like that one, too. Let me finish up here and we'll pedal out there and have another look.”

Waiting For FedEx
So there you have it. That's what I am doing, these days: pedaling around on some new trails, new roads that are familiar to me and yet, not; I'm looking at my roads a little differently. Things look different when you are seeking a new place, a new home...

To that end I recently fired off one of my yearly $100 (free shipping!) bike parts orders. There will be newer, fatter tires, a rear rack (and a front one as well) and a new seat and a light kit. I am prepping my old Schwinn Le Tour, Little Miss Dangerous, getting her ready for living on my bicycle. Not homeless, but ready. I was waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a magical time when I could buy some Surly or Velo Orange dream machine, but reality has set in (as it is wont to do) and it occurred to me that Little Miss could get the job done just fine. We'll find out.

TJ the DJ
I recently started listening to music while I ride, plugging in earphones and streaming mostly what is called New Age or Ambient music. I previously scorned such a practice as unsafe, but so far it seems safe enough. For my aimless roaming around town at lazy speeds it seems safe enough for me. And it has opened an entirely new dimension, (almost literally) of riding. If I were on a fast intermodal run or on my way to someplace I had to be, it wouldn't work, I don't think. But for just rambling around the countryside, or doing big figure eight's in the empty parking lot of a failed strip mall, it is just right.

A lot of things are just right, lately. That would make a good name for a bicycle company, don't you think? Just Right Bikes.

Success Is Mine, Sayeth the Cyclist
Yesterday, after about four hours in the saddle, I was coming around a bend in the road and for just a moment, a brief flickering moment of time and life, I did not know where I was. Lost in a dream, flutes and tinkling bells and acoustic guitar echoing around the vast empty spaces of my mind, I suddenly found myself disoriented and with absolutely no idea where I was. I only knew that I was on my bicycle, pedaling to the rhythm of my heart, lost.

That's what I am trying for, it seems; I'm trying to pedal my way to another place. I think it is working.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Dreams
April 18, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Good Morning
“Tim Joe! Wake up!”

“Huh? What? What's wrong?”

Better just wake up, Bud. You're in it deep this time.

“Voice? Where the hell have you been? It's been months...”

France. But never mind that, you got bigger...

“Tim Joe!”

“OK OK, honey I'm awake. What's happening?” I sit up, then lay back down, fast. Too much sunshine for such a little room. The Blonde, in the snapshot I got before I pulled the covers back over my head, looks pissed. But not terminally pissed. That wasn't her terminally pissed face. Last time I saw her terminally pissed face I was in the back of a cop car, looking out through the window. I run a quick scan of the night before, trying to figure out my crime. I suddenly realize I am naked. She kicks the side of the bed.

“What's this about cocaine and skanky women?” she asks. Oh, man, I feel sick.

Stall. Beg for coffee.

“Oh, God honey, I don't know what you mean. Is there any coffee out there? I gotta get dressed.”

“This place is a wreck. Get your ass out of bed. I'll make some coffee, not that you deserve it.” The whole time I could hear her moving around the room. I didn't have to come out from under the covers to know that she was picking up, sorting the wreckage, straightening things out, all the while looking for clues.

OK, she's gone. Quick! Get up and put your pants on. And splash some water on your face. You look like you fell out of the back of a pickup truck.

This snaps me awake, fully awake. Fell out of the back...wait a minute...

The Intermodal Cyclist
Man, what a day! There's a gator hole south of town in a little place called the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. At least I think that's what they call it. Only wildlife down there is usually me and my buddies and some beer and fishing poles and so on. The day started with me getting into the cab of my truck and reaching for the keys when it dawned on me that it was 72 degrees outside, the sky was perfectly clear and the only wind was a gentle breeze tickling the tops of the palm trees. It further dawned on me that I had a perfectly good 1981 Schwinn Super LeTour with a new rear tube and a newly lubed chain. Ten minutes later I was reaching for my Goodwill Messenger Bag, stuffing in some trail mix (not really. I never have trail mix. But I always look) and swung my leg over the saddle and settled in. Man, it was just like riding a bike...

I already knew that the bus would be at the stop in front of the Whispering Pines at nine o'clock. The gator hole is about thirty miles south of the Park and I have made that ride many times, but today would be a long one and I had friends waiting.

A Scary Magic Carpet
If you ride urban transit in big cities, the bus never has a chance to get up too much speed, I guess. But Old Highway One south of Hawks Park has long empty stretches of open road and the bus goes FAST. It's a wild ride, blasting along at sixty with a giant windshield framing Little Miss Dangerous as she hangs on for dear life on the rack on the front of the bus. It's only a matter of minutes until fifteen miles have melted away and I am getting off the bus at the Dollar General store in Oak Hill. I take my bicycle off the rack. The bus stop is on a slight rise above the parking lot and I just stand on the pedal and coast down to the entrance. There's an old fart with a fuzzy little dog on a leash sitting out front in the morning sunshine.

“What kind of mileage does that thing get?” Some kind of Yankee accent.

“About twenty miles a can,” I say. I can smell the river. I'm only about fifteen miles from a place I consider Paradise. There will be smiling friends and ice cold beer and manatees and pelicans. I figured out many, many years ago that if you are somewhere where you can see a pelican, you're probably doing it right. I go into the store. I go straight to the beer cooler. I know where it is. I grab eight 16 oz Budweisers in cans (no glass at the bridge!) and take them to the counter. This is not a first time experience for me. I glance wistfully at the packages of trail mix displayed there next to the checkout. One of these days...

And then, just like that, I'm pedaling south, cruising at about fifteen mph on a freshly paved road. There is zero traffic down here, this time of day. I own the road. The phone rings.


“Where ya at, cracker?”

“Shiloh. I'm riding my bike.”

“Yeah, right. Hurry up. Nothin's bitin' here and we're going down to Haulover.”

“OK. I'll be about a half hour.”

“A half hour? What the mean you really rode your bike all the way down here? Hey, y'all! Dumbass Old Man Tim is on his bicycle!”

“Not so old I can't smack your ass around once I get there.” This is going to be a great day. Hell it already is a great day.

“Alright, we'll be under the bridge, pumpkin, make it quick. Don't have a heart attack.”

Good advice. East Coast Johnny stands about five-four and weighs about a hundred and fifty...but that's a hundred fifty pounds of tightly wrapped gristle and grit and red-headed menace. I'll throw him in the canal, maybe. Right now I feel like singing some Merle Haggard songs but I can't remember any. Not all my rowdy friends have settled down, just yet. I sure haven't.

I can see the drawbridge up ahead. Too bad. That was too short a ride on such a perfect day. But I still have the ride back. Little did I know...

Meanwhile, Back At The Trailer Park...
“Here's your coffee. I'm not cleaning up this mess. You're lucky you didn't burn the trailer down. Now I want to hear why you texted me at work at two in the morning saying you were leaving me and going to run off to the woods and spend the rest of your life snorting cocaine and dancing with skanky women. Are you crazy? I had a five hundred doughnut order to have ready by five a.m. and the last thing I need is your drunk ass sending me stupid messages that don't make any sense.”

“I have no idea what you mean. You know I don't do drugs. And I don't know any skanky women.” That's not entirely true.  I do live in a trailer park, after all.  But I did have a very vague (very vague) memory of East Coast and Josh over by the fire, hunkered down over something and giggling like idiots. For some reason I was on the porch roof at the time.  Now, the morning after, I knew without looking that my phone wasn't in my pocket. Those silly bastards...I wonder who else got some insane message from my phone at two a.m.?

“And who was that skinny little bitch with East Coast? And why do you look like you fell out of the back of a truck?”

Oh yeah...

“Well, honey, I'm sorry you had to work last night. We had a great day down at the bridge and one thing led to another...”

Man, What A Day!
I'm lying on my back in the dust. The biggest gator I have ever seen is a dozen yards away, looking me over. I can see Little Miss Dangerous in the back of East Coast's truck, fading away in a cloud of dust. Josh is in the back, hanging on to the toolbox, banging on the roof of the cab. I figure it's gonna hurt to get up, so maybe I'll just lie here awhile. The sky is really beautiful today. Maybe I'm dead. This place is certainly Heaven enough for me. I turn my head to look at the gator. That's the biggest damn gator I ever saw. He ain't movin'. Neither am I.

I can hear Johnny's truck turning around. I can hear them laughing all the way down the road. Silly bastards. I really love those dumb crackers. The big gator still hasn't moved, but I figure I better get up. Those fuckers might run over me just to see what happens. I start to dust myself off but it hurts so I stop.

I'm getting too old for this shit, but not today.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Redneck Refuge

March 31, 2014